The insulin hunger trap – or the chocolate croissant – is to blame!

Sound familiar? If you start the morning with a wonderfully delicious croissant with raspberry jam or – even better – with a sumptuous chocolate croissant, this can result in you being plagued by cravings and hunger for the entire day.

Though you feel full of energy and good humour after your "sweet breakfast", you will often fall into a concentration slump before lunch already, which is connected to a hunger for sweet things. Daydreaming about sweets and opportunities to procure them begin to dominate our thinking and distract us again and again from our work: a large latte macchiato with a muffin from the bakery next door or the little "box of thank-you chocolates" in the lowest desk drawer, raiding the kitchenette in search of a chocolate bar, a brief visit to our sweet-toothed colleague or the ultimate spike – "leftover biscuits in the seminar room?"

By that point, at least, it is worthasking the question, why is that?

The reason for it is that a "sweet breakfast" contains many simple carbohydrates, especially simple sugars (e.g., fructose from the raspberries) and disaccharides (e.g., sucrose = table sugar in the jam and the chocolate croissant). After a meal containing carbohydrates, these are broken down into glucose, the smallest of sugar molecules, to supply the cells. This increases one's blood sugar level. Fructose, table sugar and empty white flour products are converted into glucose more rapidly. Therefore, one's blood sugar increases very rapidly after consuming these, and then drops again very strongly.

How does glucose get into the cells? The key is the hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas and acts as a sugar regulator in the blood and the cells of the body.

After enjoying that croissant, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream. The hormone latches onto the cell receptors and opens them up, so that they can absorb the glucose (sugar) from the blood. The consequence: one's blood sugar level drops and the body's cells are supplied with nutrients.

If sufficient insulin is present, a feeling of satiety is registered via the brain in the metabolism of healthy persons. Insulin is lowered again. One's blood sugar level drops and the brain receives another hunger signal. This is normal and healthy!

However, if too much insulin is released, and too quickly, the hormone insulin turns into a helper for all the fat cells. If the body has more glucose available than the cells can absorb, the sugar is converted into glycogen – its storage format. On average, the body can store 500 grams of glycogen in the liver and muscle cells. The excess is converted into body fat and stored in the fat cells.

A diet containing too many carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars and disaccharides, or already existing insulin resistance, can lead to a negative metabolic state. The basic regulatory mechanisms are disturbed. The high insulin level in this case leads to relative hypoglycaemia, which triggers food cravings and the vicious cycle begins from scratch.

How can you prevent this and save the day? In order to be less hungry over the subsequent few hours, you should give preference to complex carbohydrates (wholegrain bread, vegetables, potatoes, brown rice or legumes) and ensure you are getting sufficient protein. This will regulate blood sugar levels, less insulin will be released, and the cravings for sweet things will stay at bay.

The solution could be a large glass of low-sodium, still mineral water and an early lunch containing plenty of protein, fibre and vitamins (e.g., fish with salad and brown rice).

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